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The Last Zookeeper

The Last Zookeeper

The Last Zookeeper

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Last Zookeeper

Aaron Becker

Walker Books, 2024

40pp., hbk., RRP $A27.99

9781529517873

In a not-so-futuristic time, the Earth has flooded and the waters continue to rise. The only signs of humankind are the waterlogged structures they left behind. Peeking out from the deluge are the remnants of a zoo, home to rare and endangered animals like elephants. giraffes, tigers, pandas  and rhinoceroses, who have hung on and clung on despite everything. Tender-hearted NOA is a huge construction robot who has found a new mission as the caretaker of the zoo’s beleaguered inhabitants, and despite towering above them, they trust him.  Bracing for the next storm, NOA builds an ark from the wreckage around him and together they go in search of new land, only to almost perish as that anticipated storm hits while they are at sea.  But then something miraculous arrives, and NOA not only discovers sanctuary for those he has saved, but something even more profound…

 Described by the publisher as a “luminous sci-fi parable for our changing world”, the only words in this masterpiece are a quote from primatologist and anthropologist Dr Jane Goodall,..

Only if we understand, can we care.

Only if we care, will we help.

Only if we help, shall all be saved.

But within the illustrations is a powerful story that is a parallel to the biblical story and which offers so many riches to explore, particularly by those who are so well aware of the need to protect and preserve the environment and the prospect of the impact of climate change.  So while younger readers may interpret this as a futuristic retelling of Noah and his ark, more sophisticated readers will bring all their own existing knowledge and experiences to tell their own tale as they examine the details embedded in the illustrations creating a unique, very personal story unimpeded by the text of another.  And while it may seem to be a story of gloom and doom that could be depressing, there is a twist that references the other biblical story of the Garden of Eden that offers hope that perhaps not all is lost in the post-apocalyptic world… 

Reviews of this amazing work abound and each suggests a new aspect, element or interpretation that could be explored including discovering Becker’s other work, The Tree and the River, which is a “time-lapse portrait of humankind – and our impact on the natural world”, making both of these core texts for older readers who, having asked what-if now want to consider what-next. So while most are touting it as suitable for ages 4-7, to me this is one for older readers who have an understanding of the current environmental uncertainty and who can bring that, as well as their knowledge of the biblical stories and the universal human need for hope to the table so they can really appreciate the beauty and value of Becker’s work.  

Frankie Stein

Frankie Stein

Frankie Stein

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Frankie Stein

Kylie Covark

Shane McG

Ford Street, 2022

32pp., pbk.,  RRP $A16.95

9781922696120

Frankie Stein loves doing science experiments while her teddy watches on. She wishes she could chat with him … she’s sure he’s a bear with scientific flair!

But when she mixes up a formula that works, and Bear comes alive, he is not the friendly, cuddly companion she is expecting! Now it’s a race to fix him before everything is destroyed.

With strong links to the original novel by Mary Shelley, this is a junior rhyming version with an underlying theme of being careful what you wish for.  Like the original, it is the scientist not the monster with the familiar name, and the teachers’ notes explain the amazing link between Mary Shelley and Ada Lovelace and why October 12 is set aside to celebrate the achievements of women in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) (and the date chosen to publish this review.)

The teaching notes also focus on assisting our younger readers to think about what scientists  do, science in their lives, and offer some simple science that they can practise that is much safer than creating a monster bear.  The story could start discussions about the reality of monsters in general. Could Frankie Stein really make a potion to bring her bear to life, regardless of how clever she is?  Or it may also inspire more advanced readers to seek out a junior version of the original novel while others might like to investigate the meaning of the original’s subtitle, The Modern Prometheus. It could also start discussions about the reality of monsters in general. Could Frankie Stein really make a potion to bring her bear to life, regardless of how clever she is? Whichever path is taken, it offers an introduction to one of the enduring characters in literature that children will hear of as their reading journeys continue.

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The Astronaughties

The Astronaughties

The Astronaughties

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Astronaughties:  Moon Mayhem

Andrew Cranna

Walker, 2022

240pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9781760653378

It’s 2120 and  the Moon has been transformed into the ultimate super-cool intergalactic amusement park. The Astronaughties, the children of some of the park’s designers, get a chance to visit the Lunar Park before it officially opens. But when they arrive, they discover their parents are missing. Now their mission is to find them, defeat the baddies and free a trapped alien. Accidentally strapped inside a 400 megaton thermonuclear rocket, the three children, one pet octopug and their robot minder are on a one-way collision course to the moon.

Told by the children’s nanny who has his hands full dealing with them, this is for younger readers who like science fiction, are looking for something a bit silly and definitely not serious, but  who have the ability to follow a story in monochromatic graphic novel format.  

In a recent Lego Masters episode, the task was to build a window to the future.  Could this be it? Let students dream with their eyes open by challenging them to design their own attraction for a lunar-based amusement park. What would they need to know about the moon for it to be successful? A new slant on an old research topic. 

Space Detectives (series)

Space Detectives (series)

Space Detectives (series)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Space Detectives

9781526603180

Extra Weird Creatures

9781526603203

Mark Powers

Dapo Adeola

Bloomsbury, 2021

160pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

Connor and Ethan are spending their summer holidays aboard the world’s first orbiting city, Starville , a gigantic space station sailing silently as it orbits Earth and home to over a million humans and aliens. This single city,  brimming with skyscrapers, parks and even an artificial sea is enclosed by a huge, strong glass dome  like a vast snow globe, and is bursting with celebrities and the mega-rich. But Connor and Ethan are too busy selling ice cream to see the sights.

However, neither of our heroes can resist a mystery -they had solved many back home on Earth – and when they discover the space station is overrun with cosmic chaos! Boys have two heads, dogs have three tails and even aliens who normally have six arms are growing extra ones!  What is going on? Can Connor and Ethan get to the bottom of this intergalactic mystery?

This is the second in this  series  for young, newly independent readers who like the idea of a mystery mixed with science fiction so anything can happen. With the third episode, Cosmic Pet Puzzle,  coming in August 2022, the beginning of the new school year is the perfect time to entice those emerging readers into continuing their reading with series written and formatted just for them.  This is one to recommend. 

 

I Wish I Had a Wookiee

I Wish I Had a Wookiee

I Wish I Had a Wookiee

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Wish I Had a Wookiee

Ian Doescher

Tim Bugden

Quirk Books, 2021

128pp., hbk., RRP $A34.99

9781594749629

The timing of writing this review is one of those serendipitous moments that seem to happen every now and then.  

Looking at my growing pile of review books I closed my eyes and selected one at random and pulled out one I had looked at and rejected a few times because, not being a Star Wars fan, I had no idea what it was about.  That was until a conversation around the breakfast table this morning when talk turned to favourite series and my family, being who they are, each had Star Wars at the top of their lists and Miss 10 declared she would like an AT-AT! “My response was, “Whatever that is…” and so I was informed.

So when this literally was a chance selection from the pile and the blurb says that, “In these pages you’ll meet a ten-year-old [the same age as my wishful thinker] who dreams of playing fetch with an AT-AT…” I knew it was meant to be.

But still being in the dark about such an alien world even though I am surrounded by its greatest fans, I will have to rely on the publisher’s blurb for the precis… “Inspired by the beloved world of Star Wars, and in the tradition of She; Silverstein’s Where the Sidewalk Ends, this collection of over 75 whimsical and original poems is a celebration of childhood, creativity, imagination, and the early years of Star Wars fandom.

In “My Pet AT-AT,” a ten-year-old dreams of playing hide and seek and fetch with an AT-AT. In “Dad’s Luke Skywalker Figurine,” a child opens their dad’s untouched action figure but, instead of getting into trouble, helps their dad re-discover his own sense of play. In “T-16 Dreams,” a little girl imagines herself flying through the galaxy, the Empire hot on her trail, to help with her real-world fear of flying.

Set in the hearts and minds of young children who love Star Wars, and filled with the characters you know and love, I Wish I Had a Wookiee is the perfect gift for the young Star Wars fan—and the young at heart”

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

Each poem is accompanied by a quirky illustration but as well as drawing on the familiar characters for the focus, many touch on issues important and relevant to the age group so they are more than just ditties.  For example, A Galaxy of Families begins…

Stan’s mom and dad adopted Stan

And loved him totally

Like Bail and Breha welcomed Leia

To their family. 

It continues with other less-than-traditional relationships highlighting the diverse nature of family units these days, each one resonating with a reader somewhere.

But the greatest recommendation is that from Miss 10, currently curled up reading the poems, having abandoned her phone’s screen and enjoying poetry for the first time.  Usually, you take statements such as “the perfect gift” as publisher’s hype but in this case, it’s true.  I could have given her nothing better. 

 

Space Detectives

Space Detectives

Space Detectives

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Space Detectives

Mark Powers

Dapo Adeola

Bloomsbury, 2021

176pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

9781526603180

Connor and Ethan are spending their summer holidays aboard the world’s first orbiting city, Starville , a gigantic space station sailing silently as it orbits Earth and home to over a million humans and aliens. This single city,  brimming with skyscrapers, parks and even an artificial sea is enclosed by a huge, strong glass dome  like a vast snow globe, and is bursting with celebrities and the mega-rich. But Connor and Ethan are too busy selling ice cream to see the sights.

However, neither of our heroes can resist a mystery -they had solved many back home on Earth – and when they discover the space station is hurtling on a collision course with the moon they know they need to step in. This is a case for the SPACE DETECTIVES!

Can Connor and Ethan find the culprit and save Starville from its impending doom?

Fitting perfectly into this year’s CBCA Book Week theme of Old Worlds, New Worlds, Other Worlds, this is a new series for young, newly independent readers who like the idea of a mystery mixed with science fiction so anything can happen.  And concluding with an epilogue that sets up their next adventure it promises to deliver for those who like to get to know their heroes better as the series unfolds. 

When someone recently asked for recommendations for series for this demographic to help them consolidate skills and grow their reading, all the old-familiars were suggested – many popular when I was in the library full-time 20 years ago- and while they remain quality reads, this is a new series that could be added to the list. It has all the right ingredients to engage those young lads looking for excitement and adventure. 

Wednesday Weeks and the Tower of Shadows

Wednesday Weeks and the Tower of Shadows

Wednesday Weeks and the Tower of Shadows

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday Weeks and the Tower of Shadows

Denis Knight & Cristy Burne

Lothian Children’s, 2021

250pp., pbk., RRP $A16.95

 9780734420190 

Wednesday Weeks never wanted to be a sorcerer’s apprentice. She’d rather study science than magic. But when her cloak-wearing, staff-wielding grandpa is captured by a power-hungry goblin king, Wednesday must find a way to embrace her magical heritage and rescue him from the dreaded Tower of Shadows.

Luckily, she’s not alone. Her best friend Alfie is a prime-number fan and robotics expert who’s all-in on Wednesday’s epic plan involving parallel universes, swords of power, and a wise-cracking talking skull.

But it’s going to take more than science, magic, and the world’s cutest robot to take down this bad guy. Because the goblin king is playing for the ultimate prize – and Wednesday and Alfie just walked into his trap…

In a world of magic, can science save the day?

Independent readers who love a story that combines magic and science with great adventure will adore this new series that does just that.  Drawing on the skills of Knight who loves science fiction and fantasy, and Burne who loves science and who has a mission to ” blend STEM and creativity to enthuse, engage and empower” this is a story featuring a smart, feisty female and her best friend who find themselves having to use real-life science to save themselves from the predicament they get into as they travel the Nine Realms, inspiring the reader to perhaps take a greater interest themselves.  This is made possible with the addition of a few activities included at the end of the book and with several more in the teachers’ resources, it is an ideal story to promote to your science and maths enthusiasts. 

Described as being perfect for those who love  Nevermoor, Artemis Fowl and The Witching Hours, the even better news is that Wednesday Weeks and the Crown of Destiny, the second in the series, will be out in September, so not long to wait.  

Super Geeks 2: Planet Pancake

Super Geeks 2: Planet Pancake

Super Geeks 2: Planet Pancake

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Super Geeks 2: Planet Pancake

James Hart

Puffin. 2021

208pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

 9781760895143

Zeek and Arnie are best friends. They do everything together. They love solving problems, inventing, playing video games, coding, reading comics, cooking (mostly Arnie) and planning WORLD DOMINATION (mostly Zeek). 

In the second in this series,  Zeek and Arnie hear about a heap of TREASURE at the edge of the world, so they decide to investigate. Zeek wants to use the treasure to fund his quest for WORLD DOMINATION! But how will they get there? After using their inventing skills to build a ship, the Enchilada, they sail off with Eleanor. But there’s trouble brewing on the horizon . . . What will Zeek and Arnie find at the edge of the world? Will it be TREASURE or TROUBLE? And . . . are they really alone?

The graphic novel format of this book with a minimum of text carrying the story along at a fast pace will appeal to those who prefer screen to print and who, themselves, relate to the geekiness of the boys.  Those who enjoyed the first in the series will appreciate not having had to wait too long to meet their friends again and join in another madcap adventure. 

Super Geeks 1: Fish and Chips

Super Geeks 1: Fish and Chips

Super Geeks 1: Fish and Chips

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Super Geeks 1: Fish and Chips

James Hart

Puffin, 2021

208pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781760895129

Zeek and Arnie are best friends. They do everything together. They love solving problems, inventing, playing video games, coding, reading comics, cooking (mostly Arnie) and planning WORLD DOMINATION (mostly Zeek).

But when Zeek puts a microchip in Arnie’s pet fish, Eleanor, things go horribly wrong . . . A super-intelligent Eleanor decides she’s going to become the supreme ruler of the world.

How will Zeek and Arnie stop Eleanor’s fish-bot army and prevent this power-hungry fish from achieving WORLD DOMINATION?

This is a new series likely to appeal to those who prefer screens and coding to print because it crosses both borders.  James Hart is the illustrator behind a number of popular series including Mr Bambuckle’s Remarkables but this is debut as an author. The graphic novel format is ideal for the intended audience and the story moves along at a fast clip that has characters readers can identify with and lots of humour.

Something to offer those boys you are trying to reach out to. 

 

Max Booth Future Sleuth – Chip Blip

Max Booth Future Sleuth - Chip Blip

Max Booth Future Sleuth – Chip Blip

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Max Booth Future Sleuth – Chip Blip

Cameron Macintosh

Dave Atze

Big Sky, 2020

130pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

9781922265685

The Max Booth Future Sleuth books follow the adventures of 25th-century detective, Max, and his slightly neurotic robo-dog, Oscar, as they investigate objects from the ancient past – the long-lost 20th and 21st centuries. In this one, the fifth in the series, Max and Oscar discover a tiny device about the size of a grain of rice – an ID chip from 400 years previously in the 21st century. But, as in all their adventures investigating items from that distant past (and the reader’s present) there are those who are also interested and their presence looms. 

This is a series for younger capable readers who enjoy sci-fi, but appreciate the connection to their own world to keep the story and their understanding grounded. It also offers opportunities for reflection about how we live and the things we use and do and how these might be viewed in the future. Fast-paced, it offers something different that might open up the world and genre of sci-fi for young readers who aren’t yet ready for the plethora of post-apocalypse literature that is becoming so prevalent in YA lit these days.